Tuesday, October 27, 2009

grub street

JC passes on some scans of his "Grub St" collection (the first English edition of the Nights). He suspects they are first editions but isn't sure if 1707 was the first year these particular volumes were published (or if they were also published in 1706 like volumes 1-4). If anyone knows when these particular volumes (5 & 6) came out (they are later additions to the Grub St collection) please comment below.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pasolini's Inspiration

Pasolini's film version of the Nights is one of the few versions, filmic or otherwise, of the story collection dealing explicitly with the sexual nature of the stories and also includes some relatively unknown stories from the Nights (no Ali Baba, Aladdin or Sinbad!) which I suspect comes at the prompting of Burton.

In his "Terminal Essay" Burton writes:

"The pederasty of The Nights may briefly be distributed into three categories. The first is the funny form, as the unseemly practical joke of masterful Queen Budur (vol. iii. 300-306) and the not less hardi jest of the slave-princess Zumurrud (vol. iv. 226). The second is in the grimmest and most earnest phase of the perversion, for instance where Abu Nowas [70] debauches the three youths (vol. v. 64-69); whilst in the third form it is wisely and learnedly discussed, to be severely blamed, by the Shaykhah or Reverend Woman (vol. v. 154)."

Pasolini uses stories from both "Zumurrud" and "Abu Nowas" and incorporates and makes much use of the blurry lines between what constitutes homosexual and heterosexual sexuality.

I doubt that Pasolini read the entirety of Burton and picked those stories at random, it seems more likely that Burton's essay prompted Pasolini to take a closer look at those particular stories instead.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Aladin in Bollywood

The latest incarnation of Aladdin comes from India and is a Bollywood musical revisionistic retelling of the unlikely hero and his quest for love and power.

Aladin releases India-wide in theaters on October 30 and stars Bollywood megastars Sanjay Dutt and Amitabh Bachchan and is said to combine the Aladdin story with a more complex subtext involving the hazards of power and the blurred lines between right and wrong, with some dancing and singing of course.

The trailer looks pretty slick with heavy emphasis on the film's special effects, I can't embed it from its official youtube page but you can see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wm56IEZ7clo.

from a review here: http://www.ibosnetwork.com/newsmanager/templates/template1.aspx?a=21863&z=4 comes some more info:

"Aladin showcases Ritesh Deshmukh as the college going youngster 'Aladin' and pageant winner Jasmin Fernandez as Jasmine. It is being directed by Sujoy Ghosh who had debuted with the hit Jhankaar Beats several years back. Along with the Ajay Devgan, Salman Khan starrer London Dreams, Aladin releases all over India on October 30th."

There are a ton of songs and videos from the film on youtube, one notable one is the Genie's rap here, when "drop it shorty" meets the 1001 Nights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjufFwloYV8

Here's the whole Genie song, dance remix?, music only (for the film clip see above link):

Sunday, October 18, 2009

additional children's books on wax

JC passes on a couple of books on record (that come with books to read along with) from his collection:

Little Golden books. They produced a series of books that included a 45 rpm record. Ali Baba was part of the series. Narrated by Dave Teig.

A 1970 record of Sinbad the Sailor. Story by Jimmy Johnson.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Taha Hussein - An Egyptian Childhood

Here is an excerpt from Taha Hussein's An Egyptian Childhood with reference to the Nights (one of many references by the author throughout his works, most notably with the 1943 Dreams of Scheherezade).

"So it was in the heart of our friend. He would be a Sufi and practise magic, all the while believing that he was pleasing God and getting our of life the best of its pleasures.

Among the stories brought by the book-pedlars, which were often in the hands of the lads, was one which was an excerpt from The Arabian Nights, and known as the story of Hassan of Basra. This story contained an account of the adventures of a Magician who turned brass into gold, and also an account of that castle which stood behind the mountain on lofty pillars in the air, where-in resided the seven daughters of the Jinn, and whither Hassan of Basra repaired. Then again came the adventures of this man Hassan, telling how he made a long and difficult journey to the abodes of the Jinn. Now among these adventures there was something that filled the lad with admiration, and that was the account of the rod given to this Hassan on one of his journeys, one of the special properties of which was that, if you struck the ground with it, the earth split open and there came forth nine persons to carry out the behests of the possessor of the rod. They were of course Jinn, all-powerful and ethereal, who flew, ran, carried heavy burdens, removed mountains and worked wonders without limit.

The lad was fascinated by this wand, and so greatly desired to get possession of it that he was sleepless at night and perturbed by day. So he began to read books on magic and Sufism and sought among magicians and Sufis for a means of getting hold of it."

(p 51)

Monday, October 12, 2009

children's records

I found this website that contains several Nights related children's records from the States in the 1950s and 1960s, they are great recordings and you can visit the site and download them yourself. If I ever figure out how to host them in an embedded player here I'll post them. There's all the usual stories plus one has the Physician Douban!

here's the website: http://www.artsreformation.com/records/

And some pictures of covers (these would make great t-shirts):

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Vintage Barbie Arabian Nights

These were some dolls made by Barbie in the mid-1960s as part of their Little Theater Series.

Vintage Barbie Arabian Nights #874 (1964-1965) Pink Satin Top
Long Skirt
Pink Chiffon Sari
Gold Slippers
Turquoise Bracelets (2)
Gold Bracelet
Gold & Turquoise Bead Necklace
Gold Filigree Drop Earrings
Gold Plastic Lamp
Theatre Program

Vintage Ken Arabian Knights #774 (1964-1965)

* Red velour coat with gold braided trim and tie belt
* Gold lame pants
* Matching turban with "emerald" surrounded by pearls
* Red velour slippers with gold braid trim
* Theater program

Here, also is the updated version of the Nights theme ala Ken and Barbie:

From the product description: "Barbie and Ken re-create the legend of how Scheherazade saved her own life by captivating the sultan with a story for 1,001 successive nights. Barbie, as Scheherazade, is absolutely ravishing in a spectacularly patterned skirt, with a matching top embellished with golden highlights. She wears pink and blue veils in her hair that spiral gracefully around her, adding an air of mystery. Ken, as the sultan, is Barbie's dashing companion. He wears a pink tunic with golden trim over billowy golden pants. A blue-and-purple sash ties at his waist and serves as a place to rest his trusty sword. His colorful turban shines with a faux ruby and is topped with a golden plume."

Here is an article on the dolls from the now defunct magazine Barbie Bazaar - click fullscreen to see it clearer:

Barbie 1001 Nights

Monday, October 5, 2009

Scheherazade in England by Muhsin Jassim Ali

Scheherazade in England: A Study of Nineteenth-Century English Criticism of the Arabian Nights (1981). By Muhsin Jassim Ali, a mini review.

This book attempts to capture the reception of the Nights in England throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and despite its breadth does a good suggestive job at getting the ball rolling on critical studies surrounding the Nights. It is one of the few books about the influence of the Nights in European literature on a general level and one of the few focusing primarily on the critical reception of the Nights particularly.

The book’s (forgivable) failings include a sort of patchwork design that never seems to congeal underneath one clear and specific thesis. This is due, I suspect, to the book’s attempts at such a broad topic but what needs to be better stated is what the main argument is beyond the general notion that the Nights and their versions had individualistic influences on England and Europe. Also despite stating that his goal was to differentiate between the versions of the Nights and how the various critics responded to them at times it seems like it’s uncertain which version is being talked about.

One of the many positive things about the book its insistence that the different versions of the Nights were both reflective of different historical periods and also had different impacts as well. This is a main feature of my own study, just in its beginning stages really, but I’d like to insist that each manifestation of the Nights, from Mahdi to Disney and beyond, has its own unique set or sets of varying elements that are both suggestive of some notion of the past versions of the Nights but also carry with them their own unique sets of influences which have varied throughout history quite dramatically.

Another good point is that most of the focus of the book is on what critics say about the Nights in the pages of the periodicals and books of the time, a focus on evidence like this certainly points to some revealing and more general understandings of what the Nights was seen as at the time. This should though be done with caution as many studies I’ve seen (and even done!) have glossed over the journals themselves, several journals of the 19th century for example were decidedly pro-Burton because of Burton’s affiliation with those journals (or anti-Burton if it were the case), and of course the critics and editors all had their own agendas as well, which needs to be accounted for in any serious study.

Here are some quotes and points I found interesting:

“Excepting Sheila Shaw’s remarks on the value of Galland’s version for eighteenth-century fiction (Muslim World, XLIX [1959], 232-38; PMLA, XC [Jan. 1975], 62-68), there is virtually nothing written on the necessity of classifying and interpreting the impact of and responses to such various editions as those of Galland, Edward William Lane (1838-1841), John Payne (1882-1884), and Richard Burton (1885-1888). Central to my argument is the premise that these translations or redactions reveal much about contemporary predilections, and must be seen as significant signs of the prevailing literary concerns of the times” (6-7).

“Beyond the emphasis on the Nights as a useful repository of information, there was a growing concern to verify this information by a study of the original manuscripts. Perhaps it was no longer entirely safe to trust the Galland version. Accordingly, by the end of the [18th] century, critics and scholars were insisting that fully accurate translations of the tales be undertaken. No sooner was the authenticity of Galland’s version vindicated than Richard Hole and others called for an erudite, well-annotated and scholarly edition of the Nights” (27) - with note 45: “For a discussion of the authenticity of Galland’s version, see Gentleman’s Magazine, LX-VIII (Sept. 1798), 757; LXIV (1794), 784; and Monthly Review, XXIX (1799), 475” (35).

“Rather than revealing a uniform and consistent appreciation of Scheherazade’s aesthetics, a careful reading of nineteenth-century literary responses will indicate diverse and varying estimates and evaluations that form integral parts of the raging literary controversies of the day. Whereas the reading public as well as romantic critics saw in the very enjoyment of these recognizable beauties the sole pupose [sic] of reading, others, especially mid-Victorian critics, devoted a great deal of their time and energy to the study and analysis of the tales from contemporary perspectives” (74).